The South's Best Lake Town 2022: Lake Lure, North Carolina
When it comes to making a dazzling first impression, Lake Lure, North Carolina, doesn't take any chances. Visitors driving in from Charlotte, about 92 miles southeast, catch introductory glimpses of its clear, deep waters from the highway, which winds around the fingerlike inlets before depositing them at the center of town. People coming in from Asheville, about 28 miles northwest, get sneak peeks of the lake from a small bridge as they cross the spot where the Broad River flows into it. Paralleling their route is the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, a 1920s structure that volunteers have transformed into a garden—a living, blooming gateway into town.
The area's population of 1,500 grows exponentially when summer arrives with sunseekers and boating enthusiasts in tow. Life here is all about the water, with many of the stays and restaurants positioned along 27 miles of snaking shoreline to maximize views. On the northern end is Rumbling Bald on Lake Lure, a sprawling resort tucked into the foothills of Rumbling Bald Mountain. It has nearly 150 rental-property options and touts amenities galore, like pickleball courts and a private beach. On the western tip stands The 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa, named for the year the man-made lake first held water. It's best known for hosting Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze when they filmed Dirty Dancing at a former boys' camp in the area. Just down the road from the inn, Lured Market & Grill sells sandwiches and salads plus sundries and local goods in what used to be a service station. "There are days when the parking lot is empty but the restaurant is full because everybody has come by boat," says co-owner Cara Brock.
It makes sense. Even the most spectacular view from shore is no match for the magic of being on the water itself, surrounded by rolling mountains and their rippled reflections. Lake Lure spans over 700 acres and reaches down to 104 feet at its deepest point—a prime place to fish, boat, or try water sports.
Genevieve and Mark Helms own Lake Lure Adventure Company, offering pontoon rentals and guided excursions, like water-skiing and wakeboarding, to first-timers as well as those who return summer after summer. Part of the area's enduring appeal, the couple says, is that it feels as steady and constant as the peaks that rise around it.
"My dad is 80 years old and grew up in eastern North Carolina," says Mark. "He always tells us, 'I've come to Lake Lure since I was a kid, and as much as it has grown, it still feels the same as it did 60 or 70 years ago.' "
And that is the singular charm of an unspoiled place like this one. "When you find something good, you keep coming back to it," says Genevieve.